Am I Irresponsible for Sharing Pictures of my Kids Online?

Is sharing pictures of your children online irresponsible? Reckless? Disrespectful? Or are those accusations complete overreactions by parents who are control freaks?

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My friend Lauren wrote a post last week entitled Should I Share My Kid’s Photos on Facebook? Because I know how private she is about sharing her (long awaited!) daughter’s image online, I knew without reading it that I would not be on the same page as her, but I was curious to learn more about her reasonings behind her feelings on this matter. As expected, I am about at opposite as you can get from her beliefs, though I do understand some of her hesitancy in regards to this subject. I just don’t agree with her on all of it.

To be clear – I truly feel that this issue is a parenting decision where there is not one right answer. I suppose some people who feel it’s a safety issue or a child’s privacy issue will argue that there is only one right way, but I’m here to say you’re wrong. HAHAHA. But seriously, you are. 😉 I do believe that different decisions are right for different families because of job considerations or comfort levels with the internet, but when it boils down to it, we all have to do what we believe is right for us – while respecting parents who feel differently on the subject.

For my family, I fully admit that I’m a little all over the board. My Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts are all locked down as private as they can be (though I post nothing I wouldn’t be comfortable with the world reading, because obviously that’s always a possibility with the internet!). However, I have my family blog and this blog out there for the world to see, and both of them are filled with pictures of my kids and stories about our lives as well.

I guess it comes down to the following beliefs for me:

  • Re: Posting Embarrassing Childhood Photos: I 100% don’t believe that an embarrassing childhood photo will affect college and job prospects decades down the road, and I also don’t believe it will cause any lasting feelings of mortification for a teenager (any more than teenagers are already mortified by everything their parents do). However, I don’t post photos online that include my kids’ private parts, because why in the world would you? (And believe me, I have a lot of adorable photos of their naked selves running around!)
  • Re: Facial Recognition Software: I have my FB settings such that my face is not suggested for tags, but at the same point, security cameras and facial recognition technology is everywhere, and I don’t really care. I have absolutely no idea how that technology will be used 20-30 years down the road, but I’m not going to be afraid of sharing pictures of my kids with family and friends because of it, because I really don’t think my actions will make a difference with the end result of this. Can you imagine if our parents had tried to worry about today’s technology problems back in the 80s? It would have been unfathomable and pointless because technology has changed SO MUCH in the past few decades. This is an issue I refuse to stress about for that very reason.
  • Re: Sharing photos that include other people/their children: always ask first, because (1) I will never post a picture of someone (or their kid) that they find unflattering, and (2) I get that not everyone is comfortable with having their pictures online and I respect that. I’m not sure how this will work as Stella grows up and has group pictures of dance recitals or rafting trips or whatever with friends, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. I’m also going to teach Stella to respect people’s privacy and to not post pictures of others without their permission.
  • Re: Posting pictures that include personal information like addresses and last names: Um, I don’t do it. That’s common sense I would hope, right? Anyone who knows us knows where we live anyway, but there’s no need to make it easier for thieves to find us, right?
  • Re: The thought that children should be able to choose their own digital footprint: There is such a glut of information online about almost everything now days that I honestly believe this will matter less and less to each generation. It will be NORMAL to them to have information about everyone accessible online, and it will be important for them all to be aware of the ramifications of what they share digitally with the world. At the same time, I don’t post our full names anywhere in my blogs in order to keep things somewhat less “googleable” on all of us. Also, as the kids get older, I will share less about their lives as the stories become less about my parenting experiences and more their stories to share.

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So what do you think? Am I way off base? Is there a concern that I’ve completely forgotten to address?

Also, are you a picture lover and sharer like me?
Or do your beliefs align more closely with Lauren’s post on the subject?

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One last (sort of related) note – I cannot stand when people use a picture of only their kid(s) as their profile picture on social media. I’m friends with you – not your kids – and for a multitude of reasons (including infertility PTSD & a desire to have Moms stay in the picture), it annoys me when you are nowhere to be seen in your own profile picture. I feel the same way about Christmas cards that have no mention or photo of the parent(s). Am I the only one who feels this way? I try to tell myself to get over it because obviously a lot of people are not bothered by it, but I really want to hear about your life and see YOU in the picture, too!

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25 comments

  1. I’m with you! I love seeing pictures of your kids and watching them grow just as I love sharing pics of my kids. I think you can be too extreme either way (sharing WAY too often or never sharing pics) so I try to find a balance somewhere in between.

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  2. I agree with you. There was a time that I had watermarked my photos on my blog but then I decided what’s the point, so I stopped doing it. I try not to post multiple pictures of my kids every day on social media, but one every couple days or so on IG and FB I don’t think is oversharing. I fall victim of having my child as my profile picture right now though…

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  3. I have not read Lauren’s article, but I am more of a private person so I probably am more in line with her beliefs. I don’t even have a personal facebook account. I know, weird, right? I do have Instagram though and I do share pics of my kids there because I have very few followers that I actually do know and have a close relationship with. That being said, most of my beliefs are based more on my personality traits rather than fear or future job prospects for my children 20 plus years from now so I most certainly do agree with your points. But, I do consider it weird to think of pictures of me as a baby/young child on the internet posted by my parents. It just seems bizarre to me (probably because that obviously wasn’t even an option). However, I do lean more towards wanting to allow my children to make that decision for themselves. I have a sibling that is a MAJOR oversharer on social media, to the extent of posting OTHER people’s business (ahem, my own) on the internet and it created a huge rift in our relationship (shared my pregnancy about 6 weeks before I was ready to share and it ultimately resulted in a loss after five years of infertility). Anyway, obviously she could probably care less if there were baby pictures all over the internet of her (since she has probably posted them all herself anyway), but I do somewhat care. After seeing how very different my children are, I realize they could also care as well, so I lean towards being very private for them, too, but it all comes down to it being a personal decision as parents. I think we are all making the very best decisions for our families no matter how different those decisions may be. I personally think you do a great job of documenting your children’s lives in the safest way possible. And I am thankful you do because I love watching them grow.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am with you! Like Steph, I watermarked briefly but then also decided it seemed pretty pointless and stopped. And also like Steph, I try not to post an overload of photos but that is just to not annoy people really. NONE of our family lives close to us so to me it would be crazy not to share anything. I know I could email but I would surely miss out people. So often we get friends and family tell us, “Please keep sharing photos! We love seeing your kids grow up since we can’t be there!” so we will be continuing to do that. I think it is very important to help our kids not feel so far away while living down here.

    Oh and about the profile photos.. I don’t mind it quite as much as you 😉 But I do think it helps to have the person in the photo unless it is for a special reason, they have changed it temporarily. I tend to have a photo of me and my kid or kids in all of my profile photos. Sometimes my husband 😉 And Christmas cards I do think it is nice when everyone is in them but I understand some people just really aren’t comfortable with how they look in photos and don’t want to share. But I do wish we could tell those people they are beautiful even if they might not think it and we love to see their smiling face!! 🙂

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  5. Yup you and I are on the same page! I’m guarded about DD’s name being posted, and about private parts being shown. I have differing levels of privacy on my social media (Twitter is open, Insta is very private, blog is open, FB has various levels of privacy depending on the individual). But yeah, Hubbs and I are both tech lovers and we both have blogs, so it would be odd if there was no mention of the one girl whose care has totally dominated and replaced my career at this point in my life. But to each their own; my brother has zero digital presence and I am barely allowed to even mention him! 😜

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  6. I think there are responsible ways of sharing. For me it’s not so much about what THEY will think in the future as it is me having the control. I overshare on 23Snaps because I have control over who is in my circle (family and close friends). I’ve requested no one post things on FB but Hubby and myself. Blogging really depends on the post.

    I totally appreciate it when people ask if they can post something to social media first.

    I can go either way on the child pic for a parents profile pic. But I totally get where you are coming from. It’s why I kept a low profile on my pregnancies on FB. I left the updates for my blog and Twitter where people reading were at a similar stage as me pregnancy/parenting wise. I think the more removed from my loss I get, the less I’m caring, but it does play a role in not sharing a lot about my kids where the discussion on infertility and loss doesn’t really exist (FB). I hope that makes sense?! 🙂

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  7. Oh! Forgot to add that my Mom, Say Cheese! pictures are probably the reason why I do post as many as I do of my kids on social media.

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  8. I agree with you 100%, except maybe for the profile pic/Christmas card thing- and that’s only because of my own insecurity and sometimes laziness. I don’t like how I look in 90% of pictures and I almost never take pics of me with the kids, which I l ow I’ll regret later. I need to be better about that, for sure.

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    1. Yep, my Mom was rarely in pics with us growing up, and it makes me sad! She WAS always in our Christmas card pictures though, which I think is part of why I love them so much – the ENTIRE family was always in the picture!

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  9. I totally agree with you on all those things – but I still come down slightly more on the private side. I used to only post pictures on my blog if they were password protected but I’ve become a little lazier about that lately. I do try to watermark… only because I’ve been freaked out by the stories of people who steal kid pictures and create fake tragic lives. (We even had that one person infiltrate our online IF community who was fake and based her life off an acquaintance on FB! I don’t think she stole any pictures though.) Anyhoo, I post freely on instagram and to a sub-set of Facebook friends. I post occasionally on twitter. I do not use E’s name on my blog or twitter ever. Not for her future self but for internet weirdos 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I almost used E’s full name on Twitter the other day when I asked about Denver but caught myself. I do try to be respectful of that!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for writing such a great response to my post, Josey! I am still wrestling with this issue, so it’s been helpful to read your and others’ responses. Plus, you’ve covered a number of issues I didn’t really explore, like not posting identifying information.

    I agree with you that teens are going to be mortified by something or other — and, frankly, FB already has lost its appeal with teens, so I doubt they’d even care about that. The Internet will have changed dramatically (some speculate it won’t exist at all) by the time our kids are young adults, so it’s entirely possible they’ll roll their eyes at the quaint “social media” we, their fogey parents (!), enjoyed! (Also, FWIW, I was never embarrassed by my baby pics…)

    Your points about digital footprints and facial recognition technology made me think. And I’m still thinking. I absolutely would LOVE to show off my daughter on FB — especially when all my family live an 11+ hour flight/s away! Something is making me pause, and I think it’s something as simple as more than just FB friends are able to access photos. Not everyone has their privacy settings locked down the way you and I do; and even if they do, many friends of our FB friends are able to see these photos. Out of context, I sound like a crazy person. I know I do! But my husband and father both have unusual professions which, whether I like it or not, I have to take into consideration.

    And yet, this is the part where I balance my own comfort levels with the resignation that I’m fighting a losing battle. And metaphorically fighting is just a waste of time…

    …Which brings me onto the next point: if people *asked* before posting pictures of others’ kids, then it would be easy for me to say no to some and perhaps yes to others.

    And, yeah. Profile pics of one’s kids began to really bother me when I (starting with a variety of non-infertility / pre-TTC reasons, then through loss and infertility) wasn’t able to have a baby. I get that when people become parents they are all-consumed with their baby, but I also felt like I lost friendships because I wasn’t yet a parent. My friends’ kids as their profile photos were a constant reminder of the little family I couldn’t start yet *and* the friends I’d lost. Those feelings intensified as I waded through miscarriage and weird infertility.

    But on a practical note, profile / cover photos are also publicly accessible, which brings me back full circle.

    Yet I’m still asking myself: What is the real harm? Why am I not comfortable? And why do I long to say, !@#$ it, I’m going to upload this a lovely pic of the baby I struggled to have?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Heh – And I asked for a pic of your kids just this morning! It REALLY bothers me when people post pics of my kids without asking first. My friend does this a lot, and I’ve asked him not to, and then it sneaks back in. No matter how “private” your social media accounts are…they’re not. Anybody can screenshot anything they want, and the more “friends” you have… I don’t know. (For example, you can copy the share URL from a private account on IG to anyone. I’ve done it with knitting photos.)

    I posted a lot more pic when the boys were younger. I am not as comfortable with than anymore. I also want to post pics that *aren’t* my kids more often that not these days, and I think I’ll need to think a little bit more about that, now that I think about it. I also only use IG these days, and not with family.

    As with anything related to parenting, if you (the parent) think it’s fine, it’s fine. And you know how I feel about photo Xmas cards 😉

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    1. I have no problem with you using those photos online at all! Thanks for asking though. 🙂

      …and I totally laughed when I wrote the part about Christmas cards and thought of you. Your boys were ADORABLE, and I suppose I feel differently when we chat all the time so I know what’s going on in your and Brad’s lives. It’s harder when it’s someone I don’t keep in touch with often and I want to know about the parent’s lives too!

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  12. I’m pretty much like you but post more photos on insta than FB because I feel more in control there. I probably post 2x per week of photos and try to mix Fb up with personal and child ones but insta is def more molly. It was created after she was born and is my outlet. I can’t stand profile pics that are of your child my sister does it all the time. I love fb photo sharing of funny photos. Since private groups were introduced we post a lot of family pics in there ir best friend stuff rather than on the main feed

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  13. I’m probably the biggest oversharer you know; so I guess I don’t need to comment 🙂

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  14. So I’m going to be the weird one and say that though I completely respect where you’re coming from that I’m more in line with Lauren’s thinking. Mainly because of Facebook and Instagrams policy about information. When one signs up with these companies and shares information through them, that information, be it photos, comments or links, becomes recorded with these companies. What’s scary is that Facebook has already revealed it is doing human psychological experiments with it’s users, using the “terms of agreement” as a consent form to do so. The paper the publish in PNAS has been openly criticized for this practice as it is seen as unethical. And this is something that they openly admitted they did. What other things are they doing with this information that they are not admitting?

    I don’t share photos of my family or kids because my career choice has introduced me to many, many examples of people misusing information from the public. Without all the checks and balances that are in place, the situation would be a lot worse. Still, those that violate don’t seem to care until their funding/titles have been stripped from them. They don’t care about any potential harm because in their eyes it doesn’t matter. And it frightens me that someone would use an image of my family for their own profit, ego or simply for having a laugh.

    Again, I fully respect your decision to share images of your family. It is a persona decision and one that no one should be pushed about.

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  15. nonsequiturchica · · Reply

    People are insane. Sharing photos won’t harm kids in 20 years. I share photos of my kid and am glad that friends and family on FB can see her as she grows up.

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  16. I’ll comment more later, but wanted to say that I HATE the profile pictures with just a kid(s). In fact I was saying that JUST yesterday to Nacho. It’s not YOU! Sheesh.

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  17. I used to share pictures of my kids on my blog, but eventually I stopped. Mostly I don’t want people finding me there and having pictures of my kids up is a sure fire way for someone to know they’ve found me once they suspect they have. I haven’t posted any on my new blog and I don’t intend to.

    If I did go back to posting my photos on my blog I would watermark them because I’ve seen images being used to propagate beliefs that went against the beliefs of the person who took the picture and I think that would be a horrible thing to have happen to an image of my kids. Of course I don’t watermark photos on FB, because I’ve locked my account down, but I also know the reality is it’s not locked down and I don’t really “own” those pictures the minute they go up, so I’m probably just deluding myself with this stuff.

    I agree with you that I don’t think “embarrassing photos” of our kids in their early days will keep them from getting a job, and I absolutely believe they will grow up with a different expectation of personal privacy as it relates to picture sharing than we did, but I do worry about bullies using pictures to hurt them in some way some day. As a middle school teacher I have seen kids get hurt by cyber-bullying, I’ve even seen teachers devastated by cyber-bullying and I worry sometimes about what a hurt teenager might do with my child’s image if they wanted to hurt my child too. I don’t think it would keep me from posting pictures of them, but it’s something I worry about.

    These are important questions to ask ourselves. Whatever answer we come up with is okay, as long as we’re making deliberate decisions and not just doing what we think everyone else is doing without thinking about it for ourselves.

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  18. I’m super liberal with posting kids stuff to all of the social media platforms. I do think part of it is my job in PR and using social media to enhance our non profits work. I know that in order to carry social media capital to promote our fundraisers and mission- I have to be personally invested. People who I engage with in the most personal level, I know are also more likely to care about supporting me professionally too. Also though I am just plain not worried about it. Who knows what the right answer is. Also- re: profile pics. It does bother me when people only use profile pics of kids but at the same time I do often have a profile pic of just my kids. I feel like I change my pic enough that I can sometimes do pics of just my kids and NOBODY will forget what I look like ;). I am an oversharer after all!

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  19. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I must admit I’ve been lazy about the whole thing and haven’t really explored my thoughts on the issue. And now that we’ve moved far from old friends and family, I feel like I want to post photos more. So I need to think about this. As always I appreciate the issues you raise and the way that you and your commenters discuss them!

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    1. Yeah, I’ve heard of this before. I’m sure it would freak me out if this happened to me (and maybe it already has and I just don’t know about it? ugh) but either way, I still feel like this is one of those risk/reward things… like the danger of driving Stella 600 miles to Denver and back last weekend was surely higher than the danger of posting her picture online, you know?

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  20. I love your point about our parents, because yeah, some of this stuff is exactly that. Personally I’ve taken all my identifiable photos of my kid off of FB because of their policies on using pics that are on our feeds although I realize they would likely contact me if they just had to use one of my pictures. Anyway, I’m currently trying to figure HOW to share on the Internet. Because I want to! But I err on the side of caution. Maybe too cautious. Meh.

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